Before April rings the chime, she forces her way up out of herself: She’s going to ring it. She’s about to. Seated at the far edge of the rainbow rug, she holds the mallet above the instrument, poised to strike.

The kids, her class, are at the other end of the room, seizing their last few seconds of freedom. They dart in and out of the coat closet, backpacks thumping behind them, calling out the conditions of their games—Samson is in the Super Bowl, Mindy is a wizard, Oswah is Fern’s pet kitten—but the sound of the chime is solemn. It spreads its silver netting from wall to wall and ushers them all into quiet. Every weekday this happens. It is part of a method. As soon as the sound hits their ears the kids hang their jackets and bags from their personal hooks and sit down with April in a circle on the rug. They look up at her like puppies, cocking their heads. Some of them have only just turned six. It’s hard for them, so young, to balance the weight of their heads.

April puts the chime down beside her and says, My friends!

Derek, April’s classroom assistant of five years, has left her. He left last month to teach elsewhere, unable even to finish out the semester, and in a way April went with him. She can’t picture herself as she talks.

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